Is now the time to grasp opportunities and make the best of them? The highly successful film Demain which a packed audience saw in Manchester on Wednesday night suggests just that. The showing was organised by the Kindling Trust and the University of Manchester. The filmmakers were desperate to show, in the face of the threats to us all, emerging examples of a world which is socially rich, environmentally sustainable and viable economically. It creates a much needed and wonderful picture of the multitude of things that are happening and the great potential of a good life.
These include abundant food growing in places as desperate as Detroit and as a basis for transforming Todmorden in Yorkshire, emerging complementary economies in all sorts of places including Totnes, Brixton and Bristol, democracy leading to high and low caste people living together in Tamil Nadu, India and education for a full and good life in Finland.
The film illustrates how essential it is to offer a vision of what we want to achieve; and very relevant to our elections, the possibility of designing cities for a viable economy; example – Copenhagen.
A recent presentation we gave, argues the need to design a safe, sustainable future. In a nutshell, that we have a lot to learn from public health, a discipline with a wealth of experience of transforming norms and behaviour. Over time, public health practitioners have learnt that influence and education can go so far but in the end what works is making it as easy as possible for people to change what they do. So we need to design a world where the ecological, viable choice is the easy choice. We are doing this already, to a too limited extent, an example is through recycling.
So can the new order of city-region devolution lead to the design of a viable Greater Manchester? Certainly it is no foregone conclusion that it will. There will be lots of pressures on the new Authority to do precisely the opposite. But are there possibilities?
Marc Stears of the New Econmics Foundation recently said:
Everything we know about what is going on in our country today, tells us that fundamental change is not going to begin from (Westminster and Whitehall ) …The primary mechanism for change is working out who out there is rooted in the community, who actually can start this process going now be it a process of … community economic regeneration… or a newly elected mayor trying to think about pushing the boundaries of the authority that he or she has within that situation,’
We are delighted to see some of our policy proposals are in both the Green Party manifesto (including GM Carbon budget, Fossil Fuel divestment, re-localisation, complementary currency) and the Labour Party manifesto (including non-monetary exchange via points, climate change is a central challenge, greater ambition on emissions reductions, GM energy company).
More broadly, community input has been significant in shaping thinking prior to the election, including pledges developed by women via the Women’s Equality Party and Divamanc, publication of the Peoples Plan, Andy Burnham’s use of people’s ideas in his crowd-sourced manifesto and Jane Brophy’s co-production of the section of hers about young people with the youth NGO Reclaim. And the power of community protest will now lead to a major re-write of the flawed, developer friendly, Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
We celebrate all that is happening in Greater Manchester, not forgetting the vibrant, innovative community business sector, to create a viable future with and without the help of government organisations on which we can build.
Let’s insist on designing our way out of an economic and political system out to destroy us, in every way we can.
So the new region is an opportunity we have, at this frightening and challenging time. Let’s cherish, nurture and share the hope given by the many fabulous examples we have of viable living. Lets build on these for a viable economy within Greater Manchester and beyond. I am sure most Greater Manchester residents reading this will vote on Thursday; we are looking forward to working with you and your communities within and without the local state to design the future we all need.